Recognizable faces from the show's original NBC run appear in these two episodes. There's John Pankow as Ira Buchman, Anne Ramsay as Jamie's sister and Richard Kind as big Dr. Mark Devanow.
In its original run, I loved how Jamie embraced diversity. In one episode, she and her girlfriends are happily noting how hot Black pro tennis player Yannick Noah is. As the series went on, Richard and I noticed the lack of Black people in a show about characters who lived in New York City. In one episode, Carol Burnett guest starred as Jamie's mother. Mother and daughter went to see the hit Broadway musical BRING IN 'DA NOISE, BRING IN 'DA FUNK starring Savion Glover. I saw that show three times. Each time, the packed audience was extremely diverse racially. I was thrilled to see so many Black and Latino folks in a Broadway show audience. However, in that episode of MAD ABOUT YOU, when mom and daughter went to the lobby during the Broadway show's intermission, there were no Black people as background actors. This lack of color also applied to fellow NBC sitcoms at that time -- FRIENDS, WILL & GRACE and SEINFELD. The lack of color on shows in which we followed sophisticated characters living in NYC was so evident that, in one issue of Los Angeles Magazine, the question was posed "Does NBC stand for 'No Black Comics'?" As for SEINFELD, I was working at WNBC in the early 90s when one incendiary episode aired. A lead character is driving a car, makes a wrong turn into the Puerto Rican Day Parade and accidentally sets the flag of Puerto Rico on fire. The night that aired, the NBC switchboard just about caught on fire with the mass number of irate calls for Latinx viewers. I was angry about it too. My feeling was that, if setting the flag of Puerto Rico on fire accidentally was written as a gag, there was no one Latino on the writing staff or otherwise on the production team to say, "Can we talk about this before you shoot it? You're asking for trouble here." That episode was taken out of the rerun cycle for years.
We're now in a different age. Diversity and inclusion are key -- especially in shows that feature characters in big metropolitan cities. People of color are definitely in the first two episodes of the MAD ABOUT YOU reboot. Part of me wonders if that was the wonderful work of Helen Hunt who, like actress Frances McDormand, advocates the inclusion rider in production contracts. There's racial diversity in the cast and the first two episodes were directed by women. Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser are executive producers of the reboot. Here's a trailer.
I had some reboot script ideas. For Mark (played by Richard Kind), I would've had his detachment from Fran as a divorce when he came to a truth about his sexual orientation. I would've had him *come out* and now be with a middle-aged Black or Latino man. Now that Mark is out, we could see if Paul is still comfortable doing things they've done for years -- like hit the gym together, workout and catch a steam afterwards. As for Paul, we see him working on a TV commercial for catheters. I would have him now an Oscar nominee for one of his documentaries. He didn't win but he and Jamie were at the Oscars. And he's since made appearances on New York City's PBS station during pledge drives. He's become a bit of a local celebrity. Instead of a great restaurant review in the New York Times (Ira has an Italian restaurant), I would've had his chef get booked on CBS SATURDAY MORNING for one of the news program's popular weekly restaurant segments or get a great profile another national TV show. The on-air TV segments would be great for business in these modern times where more people are looking at screens instead of reading newspapers. While Paul and Jamie are in the restaurant one night after some TV exposure, Jamie could be spotted by one of her old boyfriends from right before she met Paul. Her old boyfriend is now a transgender female and looks fabulous. As for Paul and Jamie's serious marital discord at the end of the sitcom's run in 1999, I would have it that tragedy brought them together again. They both lost a very dear friend who worked in one of the World Trade towers on September 11th. Their shared grief was, in time, sort of a remarriage. They reconciled and reunited in their changed New York City.
Just a few ideas. During the original run, Helen Hunt won the Best Actress Oscar for 1997's AS GOOD AS IT GETS, written and directed by James L. Brooks. In the first episode, we're reminded of why she won that Oscar when she sits with Paul in Ira's restaurant and honestly says, "I'm so tired. My brain is tired..." She's older and she knows it. She reveals her complicated feelings. That's in the episode Hunt directed. Helen Hunt has done some mighty fine work as a film director. I recommend her 2007 directorial debut with THEN SHE FOUND ME starring Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler. Hunt got a good, subtle performance out of Midler. I also like Hunt's surfer romantic comedy/drama RIDE. That 2014 film has her as a single mom who learns to surf in order to heal her fractured relationship with her son.
The first two episodes of the non-NBC reboot are "The Kid Leaves" and "Restraining Orders and Puppies." I give the first one a C+ and give a C to the second. They can be viewed for free until the end of January on Spectrum Originals, the new home for MAD ABOUT YOU. Just click onto the link below: